Of facts and fiction
There have been few suitable schemes for primary schools since Ron Dearing cut geography down to size. Nelson's Forward in Geography claims to integrate geographical skills, places and themes "with pace and progression". The first materials to be published are for pupils aged seven to nine, somewhat misleadingly termed level 1. At this level (Years 3 and 4), the themes are mapwork and skills, places and localities, weather, rivers, settlement and environmental change.
Each pupil's book is enhanced with interesting and relevant colour photographs and extracts from Ordnance Survey maps, which lend reality to geographical investigations. Some maps look like the real thing, but turn out to be fictional, which may cause confusion if pupils, for example, try to find Stagford (Mapwork and Skills) on an atlas.
Much use is made of colour artwork and, while some panoramic views are interesting, such as the broad landscapes in Environmental Change, unrealistic drawings of rivers and their valleys detract from the value of identifying features from actual examples.
Places and Localities (at 78 pages, three times the length of the others) rightly emphasises the importance of place in the learning of geography. The UK examples are Tewkesbury and the Last of the Summer Wine village of Holmforth. The book is crammed with interesting information on both these places, offering teachers a selection of text, pictures and activities as a basis for geographical enquiry. The final section deals with Dolceacqua in Liguria in north-west Italy, a locality "free from the national curriculum". Whether this adds to its attraction or not is difficult to judge, but it does provide teachers with the chance to correct what many regard as a serious omission - the European dimension.
The teacher's resource book is a familiar mix of brief notes with around 60 photographic worksheets, most of which are well drawn and attractive with challenging instructions. A few are brief and hardly worth the cost of a photocopy, while others prompt non-geographical activities with no clear educational purpose, such as creating a tasty pizza. Most, however, offer clearly relevant geographical investigations linked to enquiry questions and requiring observations likely to further pupils' knowledge and skills.
This combination of pupil's books and activity sheets is well worth considering if a pre-packaged series is your preferred way of meeting the subject requirements at key stage 2.
Colin Harris is a geography inspector and consultant